The 49ers' decision to start overtime with the ball in their Super Bowl LVIII loss confused fans around the world, and they weren't alone.
After winning the coin toss, San Francisco elected to receive the ball first when the matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs went into overtime Sunday at Allegiant Stadium -- but that might have been the wrong choice due to the NFL's new playoff overtime rules.
And just like fans, players, too, were confused and clueless about the recent change to the OT rules, which ensures both teams have at least one possession -- unless the first possession ends on a safety.
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Several 49ers players admitted they weren't aware that the overtime rules were changed after last season's AFC divisional-round playoff game between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.
“I didn't even know about the new playoff overtime rule," defensive lineman Arik Armstead told reporters after the 49ers' 25-22 loss. "It was a surprise to me. I didn't know what was going on, in terms of that. They put it on the scoreboard and everyone was thinking, even if you score, they get a chance still.”
San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk was just as perplexed.
"I didn't even realize that the playoff rules were different in overtime," Juszczyk said. "So I just assumed you won the ball, you score a touchdown and you win. But I guess that's not the case.
"So I don't totally know the strategy there."
The 49ers and Chiefs were tied at 19 points at the end of regulation when the former won the coin toss and opted to start with the ball, which ultimately resulted in a Jake Moody field goal to give them a 22-19 lead. But Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes led a game-winning, 75-yard touchdown drive in response to secure back-to-back championships for Kansas City.
"That's just something we talked about, none of us have a ton of experience with it, but we went through the analytics and talked to those guys and thought it would be better," Shanahan said. "We wanted the ball third, but both teams matched and scored. We wanted to be the ones to be the ones who had the chance to go win.
"We got that field goal, so we knew we had to hold them at least to a field goal and if we did we felt it was in our hands after that."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs apparently were more than prepared and confident in the decision they would have made had they won the coin flip.
Chiefs safety Justin Reid told The Ringer that the team had discussed the new overtime rules all the way back in training camp last summer -- before the official start of the 2023 season. Defensive lineman Chris Jones also told The Ringer that players were prepared for what to expect if the game went to overtime.
"We talked through this for two weeks," Jones said. "How we was going to give the ball to the opponent; if they scored, we was going for two at the end of the game. We rehearsed it."
It appears San Francisco was not as prepared, or, at least, as familiar with the rule change.
The NFL tweaked the playoff overtime rules in 2022 after the Bills didn't get the ball in an overtime loss to the Chiefs during the 2021 divisional playoffs.